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这个机构的知名度不高,但或许能预测另一次金融危机

Pat Garofalo 2018年09月26日

金融研究监管办公室若无法正常履行职能,另一场金融危机爆发的风险也会相应提高。

2010年9月24日在伦敦克里斯蒂拍卖行拍卖的雷曼兄弟公司标志的一部分。而在2008年金融危机十周年之际,特朗普却在削减金融研究监管办公室等机构的编制。Ben Stansall—AFP/Getty Images

十年前的2008年金融危机,在短短两天之内就达到了顶峰:雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)破产、美国国际集团(AIG)难以为继,而美国银行(Bank of America)宣布收购美林证券(Merrill Lynch)。这次危机已经酝酿了许久,但9月15日和16日这两天让所有人都认清了现实:一场金融大灾难恐怕就要降临了。

旧金山联邦储备银行(San Francisco Federal Reserve)的一项新研究显示,这场金融危机给每个美国人造成了7万美元的损失,而导致它的元凶之一是对系统性风险的不重视,即忽略了金融巨头彼此之间的联系,没有看到在非银行业的阴暗死角,有多少尚未得到监管却威胁着整个系统的行为正在活跃着。

监管者没有足够的信息,而他们拥有的信息也没有共享。由于对维持整个金融市场的脆弱联系知之甚少,在抵押信贷市场恶化之时,政府里的几乎每一个人都猝不及防。

2010年《多德弗兰克法案》推行的目的之一就是解决这一问题:政府成立了金融研究监管办公室(Office of Financial Research),尽管这个重要的机构并非家喻户晓。不幸的是,正因为它的曝光率不高,才导致国会的共和党和特朗普当局对它肆意下手。该机构若无法正常履行职能,另一场金融危机爆发的风险也会相应提高。

就像消费者金融保护局(Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)的职能是纠正消费者监管方面的散漫无序一样,金融研究监管办公室的任务是解决一大现实问题:金融数据的收集工作是由一系列机构完成的(如果他们确实收集了的话),而这些机构不仅不互通数据,也不会用这些数据对整个系统的风险程度进行评估。

金融研究监管办公室有着独立的经费,如果得不到想要的数据,还有权进行传讯。理论上,它应当向金融稳定监管委员会(Financial Stability Oversight Council)提供信息,后者是金融危机之后成立的另一个机构,任务是发现和处理系统性风险。

金融研究监管办公室做了不少有益的事情,包括全球数据标准化,从而更好地发现和评估风险。不过共和党却不断打压它,限制它的职能。

例如,特朗普当局削减了这里25%的预算,减少了40名员工的编制。特朗普还委派迪诺·法拉切蒂担任办公室主任,他之前在众议院金融服务委员会(House Financial Services Committee)的主席杰布·亨萨林手下工作,而亨萨林则力主彻底取消金融研究监管办公室。甚至在特朗普当政之前,国会的共和党就对监管办公室的工作毫不感冒,将其描绘成又一个没有价值的官僚机构,降低其士气。

这可不是打造一个成功机构的秘诀。

当然,这不是说金融研究监管办公室可以独力阻止另一次金融灾难。就像《多德弗兰克法案》一样,它尚未经受过考验,只在许可的范围内表现得不错,只有当权者利用好这个工具,才能起到效果。不过它的设立是为了解决一个真实存在的问题。

2008年9月,金融系统的脆弱性让监管方措手不及。而阻碍金融研究监管办公室正常运转,将会让这些盲点继续存在下去。(财富中文网)

帕特·加罗法洛,作家、编辑,现居华盛顿,曾在《美国新闻与世界报道》(U.S. News & World Report)和政治新闻博客ThinkProgress担任编辑。他的著作《亿万富翁计划:我们的政客如何让企业和权贵偷走我们的金钱与工作》(The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money and Jobs)将于2019年4月出版。

译者:严匡正

Over a two-day period 10 years ago, the financial crisis of 2008 hit full stride: Lehman Brothers failed, the mega-insurer AIG was bailed out, and Bank of America announced the acquisition of Merrill Lynch. The meltdown had started long before, but Sept. 15 and 16 made it clear to everyone that a financial apocalypse could be in the offing.

One of the culprits in causing the crisis—which wound up costing every American $70,000, according to new research from the San Francisco Federal Reserve—was a lack of appreciation for systemic risk, or the extent to which financial giants were interconnected and how much activity was occurring in shadowy, non-bank corners where no watchdogs lurked, threatening the entire system.

Regulators didn’t have enough information, and what they did have they didn’t share with each other. When the mortgage market went south, nearly everyone in government was caught off guard by how little they knew regarding the tenuous strands holding the financial markets together.

One aspect of the 2010 Dodd-Frank reform law is aimed at addressing this shortcoming: the creation of the Office of Financial Research (OFR), an important body that is far from a household name. Sadly, its low profile has allowed it to be kneecapped by Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration. Failing to let the office do its job properly makes another financial crisis more likely.

Much like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was meant to correct the scattershot nature of consumer regulations, the OFR aims to address the fact that financial data is collected by a host of different agencies—when it is collected at all—and that those agencies not only don’t share the data with each other, but don’t use it to craft a picture of risk across the system as a whole.

The office is independently funded and empowered to issue subpoenas if it doesn’t get the data it wants. In theory, it’s supposed to feed info to the Financial Stability Oversight Council, another entity created in the wake of the crisis with a mandate to spot and address systemic threats.

The OFR has done some good work, including standardizing global data to more easily spot and assess risk. But it’s been dealt blow after blow from Republicans, which has limited its effectiveness.

For instance, the Trump administration has cut its budget by 25% and laid off some 40 employees. Trump has nominated Dino Falaschetti to be the office’s director; Falaschetti previously worked under House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, who has sought to eliminate the OFR altogether. Even before Trump’s presidency, Republicans in Congress evinced no love for the office’s work, characterizing it as just another worthless bureaucracy and driving down the office’s morale.

That’s not a recipe for crafting a successful agency.

It’s not that the OFR is singlehandedly going to prevent another financial meltdown, of course. Like much of Dodd-Frank, it’s an untested tool that is only as good as it’s allowed to be and will only be useful if the policymakers in charge take advantage of it. But it aims to correct a real problem.

In September 2008, regulators were blindsided by the extent of the financial system’s fragility. Preventing the OFR from producing robust work ensures those blind spots will persist.

Pat Garofalo is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. He was formerly an editor at U.S. News & World Report and ThinkProgress. His book, The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money and Jobs, will be published in April 2019.

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